Gov’ts increase baby bonus rates

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Gov’ts increase baby bonus rates

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Yeongdong County in North Chungcheong has the highest baby bonus rates in the country, and is raising them higher still.

The government is raising the incentive paid for one’s first-born child from 300,000 won ($255) to 3.5 million won, for second-born children from 50,000 to 3.8 million won and from 5 million to 5.10 million won for one’s third child, while the 10 million won bonus for one’s fourth child was lowered to 7.6 million won.

In most municipalities in the country, nothing is paid for first-born children and the amount for subsequent children is between 300,000 and 500,000 won. Pak Se-buk, governor of Yeongdong County, said, “Couples who do not intend to have children are increasing, and the small amount provided to incentivize more births doesn’t correspond with reality, so it was adjusted.”

Municipal baby-bonus policies are changing. Baby bonuses will be provided starting with one’s first child, and the scale of the incentives will be greatly expanded. The prescription of fertility medicine has also been proposed, if the population does not increase due to these or other measures.

Just 50 years ago, Yeongdong had the largest population among all counties in North Chungcheong with 120,400 people. But as time passed, its population has dwindled, and barely broke 50,000 last year.

The number of newborns recorded by the government this year was 406,000, a decrease of 7.4 percent from last year. The total fertility rate (average number of children born to a woman in her lifetime) was 1.24 in 2015, and dropped to 1.17 the following year, far below the rate of replacement of 2.0.

Starting this year, Yangpyeong County, Gyeonggi, will provide a 2 million won bonus for the birth of one’s first child. Previously, financial incentives for Yangpyeong residents giving birth only took effect with one’s second child. The childbirth grant for a second child is 3 million won, 5 million won for a third, 7 million won for a fourth, 10 million won for a fifth and 20 million won for sixth and above.

“A realistic plan was arranged to help people have a first child and continue to a second,” said Kim Seon-gyo, county governor of Yangpyeong.

Starting last December, Gongju, Southern Chungcheong, raised its childbirth grant from 500,000 won to 1.2 million won for a first child. The previous 1 million won for a second child was raised to 1.5 million, while the incentive for a third was raised from 2 million to 3 million.

The population of Gongju at the end of 2012 was 117,298 and decreased to 110,962 last year. Yeosu, South Jeolla, also raised their baby bonuses from the standard 500,000 won to 1 million won for a first child, 2 million to 3 million for a second and 5 million for three or more children.

Gwangju, originally only providing a childbirth grant from the second child onwards, will enlarge its program to include first-born children so that 50,000 will be allotted for a first child, 150,000 for a second and 550,000 for a third child and above. Buan County, North Jeolla, which did not support a baby bonus measure previously, has started to do so since last October, giving a 1 million won grant for a first child.

But some municipalities have already long provided baby bonuses. Sejong City has provided 1.2 million won per child since July 2014. Before that, it gave 300,000 won for a first child, 1.2 million won for a second and 2.4 million won for a third.

“I can’t know just how exactly a [baby bonus] will affect the birthrate, all we can do is provide incentives to those couples considering having or not having children,” said Oh Jong-su, 61, professor of Social Welfare at Chungnam National University. “Starting from the first child, the scale of baby bonuses has to be boldly developed.”

BY KIM BANG-HYUN, KIM BANG-HYUN [hwang.hosub@joongang.co.kr]

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